Sometimes there are people you meet that stick with you. Well, Beverly Stewart wasn’t just one of those people; she was the kind of person that became a part of you.
She was my voice teacher in high school and you wouldn’t think I would be taking this so hard, unless you knew her. You see, she passed away yesterday. I saw the news on Facebook and couldn’t process it. That was surprising for me since I knew she had been sick for a number of years now. Today I saw others post about their grief so now I’m facing my own sense of loss.
Bev was incredible. A soul that brought out the best in everyone. It’s strange because I feel as though I have lost a part of myself. Not because I actually have, but because she represented a part of myself that I have always clung onto. Singing on stage was a thrill, a rush of happiness for me that can’t be measured. She made me feel like I had natural talent. She made me better. She made me understand that I had to trust myself and believe in myself. It was her believing in me that made it easy to think that I was worth more.
You see, in high school, self worth was a hard thing to come by, for me. It might come as a surprise to some, but it’s true. Singing was pretty much the one thing that I felt I would ever be good at. When I started taking lessons from Bev it was like a whole new world opened up for me. Suddenly, I saw my life unfold before me. She trained me and helped me get the lead role of Reno Sweeny in my high school musical, Anything Goes, as a Sophomore. It was the most exciting thing I had ever accomplished. That would be the last big part I ever had in a school production, but it didn’t stop her from making me feel my dreams could come true.
She even called my mom once, just to tell her that I could “go far”. That I had true natural talent and all I needed to do was cultivate it and work hard. It’s something that I will never forget and have held onto all these years like a fragile secret. I was a teenager then, and it was easier to think I wasn’t very talented after a run in with another teacher and only making the chorus after Anything Goes. So I hate to say it, but I haven’t performed since graduating. It’s sad for me. However, that experience made a profound difference in my life. For so many years I held onto the words they both said. It took years before I let go of the negative and have only held onto the positive. Bev made that possible for me. And when it really mattered, I was able to get past the bad things that happen in life, as they always do. So, I am grateful for that lesson, too.
I’m lucky, really, years ago I wrote Bev a letter thanking her for her profound influence in my life. Later, I was able to connect with her on Facebook and we discussed the letter. She said she wrote back but the letter was returned to her. I was afraid she wouldn’t remember me, but she assured me that wasn’t possible. I was able to reiterate how she’s been the most influential person in my life and she told me she was “deeply touched” I remembered her so fondly. It surely didn’t feel like 15 years had gone by since our last meeting, even though it had.
A few years later I was encouraged to come visit her before her health declined too much from Alzheimer’s and dementia. Since I live across the country from her I was unable to do so. Which made our reconnection in 2009 a blessing.
From now on I will think of her when I listen to Les Mis, The Secret Garden, Pippin…to name a few. When I trim the Christmas tree with all the ornaments I received from her over the years. Listen to the vocalization tape (yes, that means a cassette and I still have it) she made for me. And enjoy all the other gifts she bestowed upon me. I can only hope that my years of being trained by her has taught me how to be such an inspiration. Her lovable yet stern teaching ways were sharp as a tack and some of the most cherished memories I have from those formative years. Her warmth and beauty will live on, along with her own wonderful voice.
Thank you, Bev, you made me a better human.
Beverly Jean Stewart: October 10, 1934 – November 30, 2015
1 thought on “Beverly Stewart: Someone I Will Never Forget”
:'( Sending big warm bear hugs your way. Those people who see something special in us help make us who we are. I’m glad she helped you discover your own talent and confidence and encouraged all those qualities that make you awesome 🙂 and that you had a chance to reconnect. Indeed, you can cherish that. Love love love you!
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